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Wednesday
Jan162013

Bahrain Opinion: A Nobel Peace Prize for the AlKhawaja Family? (Weschler)

Maryam & Abdulhadi AlKhawajaHow to recoginse the non-violent quest for political legitimacy, justice, and human rights across the Arab world?

Writing for Salon, Lawrence Weschler proposes a Nobel Peace Prize for Bahrain's AlKhawaja family --- father Abdulhadi, the founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights who is serving a life sentence and has endured a hunger strike of almost four months; daughter Zainab, who has been detained on numerous occasions and wounded by a tear gas canister, fired at close range, during the mass protests that began in February 2011; and daughter Maryam, the leading "free" figure in the BCHR with the imprisonment of her father, BCHR President Nabeel Rajab, and Vice President Said Yousif AlMuhafda:

Earlier this week, Bahrain’s highest court and final judicial authority upheld a series of ferocious sentences passed upon 13 nonviolent democracy activists, seven of them to life terms.  In so doing it seemed to foreclose any possibility that the entrenched minority regime of the country’s Al Khalifa royal family might yet honor the pleas of human rights organizations and political leaders from throughout the world (ranging from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and his high commissioner for human rights through virtually all European foreign ministers, and even significant voices in the Obama administration).  It further flouted the explicit findings and recommendations of the international commission (headed by the renowned jurist Sharif Basyouni,) which it itself had empanelled less than two years ago, in a farcically short-lived feint at reconciliation.

Among those whose life sentence was upheld was the 52-year-old Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, whose 110-day hunger strike earlier this year momentarily drew world attention to the country’s ongoing travails.  At the time he suspended that hunger strike, regime spokesmen lavished international reporters with assurances that his situation and that of his prisoner colleagues would be receiving full judicial review — the very review that has now come to naught, exactly as both he and numerous family members at the time predicted would prove to be the case.

In the entire Arab Spring, Bahrain’s so-called Pearl Revolution, its violent suppression by the extremely repressive and deeply entrenched elements of the country’s Khalifa hereditary monarchy and the ongoing struggle of the vast majority of Bahraini subjects against that repression has stood out as one of the most enthralling sagas.  And the exemplary role not only of Al-Khawaja but of his entire family (notably including his wife and two daughters) has drawn increasing attention.  Indeed, with the season for nominations fast drawing to a close (this Feb. 1), there has been a small boomlet of speculation suggesting that the Al-Khawajas might well prove worthy of becoming the first family as such ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize....

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